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December 10, 2007

Back to normal, or at least for me

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 8:01 AM

SEATTLE -- If you tuned in this weekend, you found that I had hijacked this blog. I took off on Saturday to see the damage that the more than week-old storm did on the Washington coast.

For them, it mostly wasn't the flooding, it was the wind. Residents talked about how it started Sunday, and didn't relent until late Monday. Sustained winds averaged 60 to 80 miles an hour. Gusts went up to 120.

Everyone tried to put into words the noise that kind of wind makes. It was a roar. It was a freight train, gathering speed far off the distance, until it finally reached your house with a flurry.

Most people lost shingles, many roofs were destroyed down to the plywood. In some cases, you could see insulation. On the radio, a contractor was offering to come by for free and drape a tarp over your roof -- many had already done so.

I spoke to a lot of people who were really eager to tell their story. To them, it seemed no one was talking about them on the radio, on the TV or the Internet. During and following a storm that is scary. Most had received electricity by Wednesday or Thursday, but pockets were still out on Saturday, and likely some people are in the dark today.

For me that is now all in the past. I arrived back home in Seattle to a warm shower, a hot meal and all of my possessions. I saw that people have lost a lot, and the rebuilding has only begun.

The Red Cross was just opening up mobile feeding units yesterday in Raymond, Pe Ell and Elma, recognizing that it was going to be a long haul.

Perhaps, as a segue, I can take a minute to tell you how I filed from the road, as a transition for this blog, which is normally focused on technology.

If it were not for technology, the kind of reporting I did this weekend would not have been possible. I choose the blog format so that I could immediately post interviews and observations moments after I had them. I published directly to the Web, no editor made sure I had perfect grammar or punctuation.

The blog format also let me post photos, include maps of where I was, and links to previous stories. That's not possible for me to do using our normal publishing software.

The photos were all taken with my 2 megapixel camera phone. As soon as I shot one that I thought I'd like to use, I emailed it from my phone to myself. Later, when I logged in, I could pull that photo off email, and upload it to the Web.

And, finally, it definitely wouldn't have been possible, without my laptop, a fully powered battery that I conserved to my best abilities, and a cellular PC card. The card allowed me to connect -- at high-speeds -- over cellular lines to the Internet.

Last night, when I was writing my final two posts, I was in Aberdeen, and as luck would have it, I had the option of two Starbucks (one on each side of the street). There, I had a warm place to sit, Wi-Fi and an outlet.

But when a town doesn't have electricity, it doesn't normally have Wi-Fi or cellphone service. That was the case in Tokeland, and coverage was spotty elsewhere, as well. In the those circumstances, I had to wait to post something until I drove to another community.

I thought it was good to hear that the cafe I visited in Ocean Shores, prioritized offering Wi-Fi, using a generator so that people could feel connected.

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Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee
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